Vegan Korean food?
Is it an Entree?
What is that?
Wouldn’t it be too pungent for me?
Since the Sriracha hot sauce has become a part of our everyday lives, and since my interview with Nam Kyung Kim, I was wondering what else I knew about Korea. I pulled out my old post from Plantsandgrains, in my attempt to combine both that website with JournalsFromAmerica.
My first taste of Korean food was a snack that my Korean students shared with me. It was this crisp, honey coated, flour based packaged snack, resembling what I imagine crinkle cut potatoes wedges would look like. It had a sweet, savory crunch that I had never felt in my mouth before. Every since then, probably when I was about 22, I got excited about tasting snacks from other cultures.
My next encounter with food from that country was when I lived with a lot of Korean neighbors in an apartment in Chennai, India. It’s where I had my first taste of kimchi, which my friends said was fermented cabbage. Starting from the smell, and then tasting it I realized, Kimchi was way too strong. Not to hurt the feelings of our new neighbors and friends, my dad was stuck eating all of the cabbage, since my mother and I were unable to manage.
What I did like is the brown rice green tea that they sent as well. I am still addicted to it and will scrounge the isles of H-mart, a Korean grocery store in Manhattan, until I find the exact one I want.
Of the other things our Korean friends shared with us, about their culture, I realized that they found it very hard to understand we did not consider fish vegetarian. We once got a box of rice triangles called kimbap which smell a lot like fish. We found out that there indeed were tiny fish in the rice but it was simply the seaweed that had such a strong smell. They apologized for giving us fish and suggested they make the kimbap just with rice, vegetables and seaweed. Unfortunately, I was not ready for such a strong smell of seafood in what I would eat.
It is no surprise then that I assumed I will not be able to eat Korean unless it was a packaged snack, with a clear ingredient list on it.
When we moved to New York City and I heard about Hangawai, a vegan Korean restaurant, I was intrigued. I ate and loved everything I ate ( I ordered was without sea weed though! 😜). Ashwin and I tried out other Korean restaurants with a good vegetarian selection. I found one a couple of blocks away, in Jersey City- Kraverie where I go for my fix of bibimbap.
Bibimbap means mixed rice. Bibimbowl is mixed rice in a bowl. I love when it is served in a hot stone bowl, keeping the rice warm through the meal. Usually the dish consists of rice topped with a few vegetables, roots and salad and is served with a fermented soya chili sauce called gochujang.
My bibimbap recipe is inspired from what I ate at Kraverie in Jersey City.
I have most of the ingredients and vegetables ready in my fridge. On a weeknight, dinner becomes fast or its an easy dish to pack in a lunch box.
1 cup of uncooked Japanese short grain rice
1 zucchini ( julienne )
2 long carrots ( julienne )
5 oz Spinach (a box f organic spinach or 150 grams)
1 lager clove garlic (mashed)
3-4 large Romaine lettuce leaves,
2 tablespoons Korean sweet chili sauce (Gochuchang) *
Sriracha ( if you want it spicy)
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
- Wash and cook set the rice to cook, according to package instructions.
- Heat the oil in a pan.
- Blanch the bean sprouts in hot water for 20 minutes.
- Sauté the zucchini until they are still crunchy (just enough to take off the raw flavor) and set aside in a bowl.
- Sauté the carrots for about 2-3 minutes in the same pan and set aside in a separate bowl.
- Add a little more oil to the pan and sauté the garlic. In it add the spinach and cook the leaves until all the water has evaporated. (Or cook it until they are all shriveled and then squeeze out the water from the cooked greens.). Set aside.
- Sprinkle 1/2 of the sesame seeds in the spinach.
- Once the rice is cooked, split it in two large bowls.
- On top, in little mounds place the zucchini, carrots, beansprouts, spinach and lettuce.
- Sprinkle with sesame.
- Serve with Gochuchang.
To eat, mix in 1 teaspoon of the Gochuchang with the rice and all the other vegetables. Enjoy topped with a single egg omelet, if you eat eggs!
- Gochuchang is available in all Asian grocery store. And even most Asian run stores will carry it.
H-mart carry it in USA.
Amma Nana (used to) in Chennai, India.